A question we get asked all the time: Constant itching is driving them crazy, itch is everywhere around arms, down there, legs. It is driving me nuts, I have rashes because of this itch. I am fed up with this itch, I have tried antibiotics, antibiotic creams but nothing is working, and nothing seems to be working what should I do?
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By far the most common question I get asked about is itching or, to use its recognized medical term, pruritus. In fact over 50% of people who contact me to ask for further information about Candida and yeast infections in general, ask whether itching, no matter where it is on the body, is caused by their Candida overgrowth.
Yet, itching, as I am sure most sufferers of chronic itching are aware, is not the simple subject it might first appear to be. In fact, as it turns out, it is actually one of the most complicated.
Internal Causes of Itching
Although we tend to think of itching as being a reaction to an external stimulus this is not always the case. Internal influences can trigger an itching sensation and these can be driven either by disease or drugs. Some of the illnesses which cause itching can be serious, for example diabetes mellitus or thyroid dysfunction. In some cases it can be caused by an iron deficiency even when anemia is not apparent in blood test results. So, when it comes to internal causation of itching, remember not only to check if any drugs you are prescribed can cause it, but also to get more serious conditions ruled out.
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External Causes of Itching
When it comes to the causes of external itching this can be caused by many things. Allergic reactions to perfumes or chemicals, stings, or even Candida. Fungi together with bacteria live quite happily on our skin and although some are known to have benefits, others, as of yet we do not understand the purpose, but for most of the time such organisms cause us no harm. Yet sometimes these fungi, and Candida in particular, can cause us problems.
When the skin becomes infected with Candida it is known as Cutaneous Candidiasis and one of the most common manifestations of this form of infection is in diaper or nappy rash. In adults however although it is still very common, often it is not recognized at least initially, as a skin problem which is being caused by Candida. If it appears in the groin or armpit region, then it is more likely to be identified as cutaneous Candidiasis, however when it appears on other parts of the body which are not typically associated with this fungus, such as the nail beds or around the mouth, then it is less likely to be immediately attributed to Candida.
Yet this skin problem often results in extreme itching and discomfort and patients may have to cope with this issue for long periods before they achieve the correct diagnosis, and of course, treatment. Such a fungal infection can appear not only on the areas of the body which would normally be conducive to yeast overgrowth, such as the groin, armpit, behind knees or indeed in any area where the environment is dark, warm and moist, such as in the folds under rolls of skin, but also in many other regions.
I explain to the many patients who ask if the itching sensation they feel is associated with Candida, that what they also need to watch out for in addition to a rash, are disturbances to the hair follicle. Often these will look like small pimples at the root of follicles in the location of the itch and are signs of an infection. But sometimes these can be difficult to see because they may be located under the dense hair of the head where the fungi like to reside.
It is also important that if you have itching but there is no rash or disturbance to hair follicles to make sure you get other conditions, such as the ones I mention above. ruled out. Itching can in rare cases, manifest where other severe illnesses are the underlying cause.
Men and Cutaneous Candida
Men in particular have difficulty in getting cutaneous Candidiasis diagnosed. This is because Candida as a general condition is more commonly associated as being a female condition. However many men are affected with itching which often and it can take some time, usually longer than women, to get this attributed to Candida.
Identifying Cutaneous Candida
If you have recurrent, troublesome itching anywhere on your body then the first line of action should be to have a skin scraping undertaken. This is not painful and what it can do is identify or rule out a yeast infection. Because yeast infections are often triggered by a variety of contemporary medicines it would also be helpful to your clinician if you can identify when the itching started, and, more importantly, if it was shortly after a course of antibiotics, NSAIDs or steriods. Those with asthma and on inhaled steroids often suffer from troublesome skin conditions which could well be indicative of cutaneous Candidiasis, so it is always advisable to rinse out the mouth at least 3 times after each inhaled dose. Other patients such as those with a weakened immune system, are also at risk from cutaneous Candidiasis as are those people being treated with chemotherapy.
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So remember that while Candida usually manifests on parts of the body which are moist, dark and warm, it can emerge anywhere on the skin, including around the mouth. Trace back any itching outbreak to possible treatments you have either received or are still receiving and remember that although rashes are easy to spot, infections at hair follicle level are more difficult, so it is best to establish a diagnosis by asking your clinician to perform a skin scraping.
Also remember that itching arising from a yeast infection, whether there is visible evidence or not, can affect men just as much as it can women, and no matter who you are, exposing the affected area to fresh air and the drying effects of daylight are going to put the Candida in an environment which is not conducive to its sustained growth.